In today’s consumer society, we are all customers a lot of the time. The success or failure of a company’s customer service has become something that can affect us multiple times in a single day.
I believe that great customer service is pretty easy to deliver but so often, people get it wrong. With the prevalence of online customer reviews and clients taking to social media to air their complaints… can we really afford to get the basics wrong?
Here are four simple ways to start on the right foot and make a great first impression:
1. Acknowledge customers and make them feel welcome
An essential part of exceptional customer service is ‘hello’. Sounds simple right?
Recently, I visited a restaurant and experienced the impact of hello, or lack of it, first hand.
When we arrived at said restaurant, the hostess was nowhere to be seen and the waitress didn’t acknowledge our presence at all. Even when we took a seat next to where she was waiting another table, she didn’t even glance in our direction. Immediately, I felt irritated.
If it weren’t for the fact that we were very hungry and hadn’t seen any other restaurants in the vicinity, I think we would have got up and left.
As it was, we stayed and when the waitress did come to the table, she was both friendly and knowledgeable about the menu. The food came promptly and was delicious. We left satisfied. However, I wouldn’t recommend that restaurant; based purely on the fact that we weren’t acknowledged when we first entered. Bad first impressions are incredibly difficult to change.
Despite good service and great food, the lasting impression I have of that restaurant is feeling ignored and excluded.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
2. Eye contact + a smile = a great recipe for hello
A study published in Psychological Science by Professor Wesselman and his colleagues examined the importance of being acknowledged and included. The researchers responsible for the study argue that we have evolved to be highly sensitive to social cues such as eye contact.
The research demonstrated that direct eye contact is required to make someone feel acknowledged and included.
Without eye contact, people can feel invisible. Accompanying eye contact with a smile further increases the feelings of inclusion and acknowledgment.
3. Project warmth and trust
Social Psychologist Amy Cuddy of Harvard Business School has studied first impressions and how we form them intensively. Cuddy suggests that when we meet someone for the first time, we are evaluating: 1. how warm and trustworthy the person is; and 2. how strong and competent the person is. Cuddy claims that these two trait dimensions account for 80-90% of an overall first impression.
The ideal of course is to come across as both warm and competent, but Cuddy explains that this is very rare. Her advice is, rather than go into a fresh interaction trying to be the alpha and have control (as many of us do in a business environment), we should be personable and project trust and warmth as much as possible. That way, we are most likely to receive trust and warmth in response.
4. Go one step further…chit chat!
A report by Havard Business School claims that five minutes of chit-chat before a negotiation or difficult business conversation actually increases the amount of value created in the negotiation or the success of the difficult conversation.
Try to build some rapport. Make a connection on a personal level with your customer but be natural and genuine; pay genuine compliments, ask questions you really want to know the answers to, mention things that you find interesting and useful. There is no script for building real rapport.
Don’t wait for people to be friendly… show them how!
Make time for ‘hellos’, smiling, eye contact; be warm and trusting and make small talk with your customers, clients and colleagues and you’re starting on the right foot.
These simple elements of a first impression really are valuable on a business as well as personal level.
To understand how Natural Training can help your team make outstanding first impressions, give us a call.